6 Facts on Drug and Alcohol Addiction Statistics in Canada

Drug and alcohol addiction continues to be an issue for Canadians from all backgrounds across the country.

While drug and alcohol addiction resources for recovery and management are available, the prevalence of the use of drugs and alcohol and the resulting damage that is caused to individuals, families, and communities cannot be understated.

One in five Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem every year in Canada. That’s a stark statistic, and just one of many that highlights the ongoing issues in Canada with mental health and addiction.

Addiction statistics help us understand how widespread of a problem over consumption of drugs and alcohol is in Canada, and provide governments with a baseline on just how much addiction affects individuals and communities.

Introduction to Addiction Statistics in Canada 

addiction statistics in canada

Drug and alcohol addiction has been a problem that the Canadian government and each individual province in Canada have been trying to control for countless years. 

The Canadian government has had various drug strategies in place since 1987. These strategies all had the aim of trying to find a balance between public health and safety from drug and alcohol use through pillars of prevention, treatment, and enforcement.

With different types of governments, these drug strategies have seen ebbs and flow in their focuses and policies, with pockets of success. 

The latest Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy was introduced in 2016 and focus on harm reduction-focused policies, which means increased support for supervised consumption sites and increased access to naloxone for all provinces and territories in Canada.

How is Addiction Statistics in Canada Calculated?

There are a variety of ways that addiction statistics are calculated in Canada. Some are gathered by the federal government through the use of surveys (described below) and others are observed across years by academics, using available peer-reviewed data from research studies conducted by various organizations.

For more information on how research is conducted with regards to humans and health in Canada, check out the Research Ethics Board (REB).

The most recent survey conducted by the Canadian government called the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS) was conducted in 2012. Many sources highlight this as showing that an estimated 21.6% of Canadians, or 8 million people, meet the criteria for substance use disorder. 

It’s important to note that the 2012 survey was based on telephone interviews that received 11,090 respondents across all 10 provinces, data that represents a sample size demographic of 27,767,855 Canadians. 

The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS) replaced the previous survey starting in 2013, with the most recent results available being for 2017. This new survey was still conducted using phone interviews and managed to get a sample size of 16,349 people across all 10 provinces, representing a total of 30.3 million Canadians. 

The CTADS survey showed that 15% of Canadians use an illegal drug (keep in mind that cannabis was classified as illegal at the time), with cannabis being the most prevalent, closely followed by cocaine.

While the overall percentage of the Canadian population that these numbers represent may be small, it still gives us a glimpse into how much drug and alcohol use affects the Canadian population.

As you’ll see in the next section, the statistics get starker when we look at more recent provincial data, which highlights how drug and alcohol abuse is growing in Canada.

Drug Addiction Statistics by Province

drug addiction statistics

Each province and territory in Canada conduct their own research with regards to addiction and provides statistics that highlight how the addiction rate of drugs is affecting their population.

When we take a look at provincial and territorial drug addiction statistics, issues with drug consumption and how that affects different populations become more harrowing. 

The statistics shared below are not a complete representation of all the drug addiction statistics data available, but provide a snapshot into the problem with drug addiction in Canada.

In Alberta, drug addiction continues to be a huge issue. With prescription opioid medications:

  • In the first six months of 2020, 449 people died from unintentional opioid poisoning
  •  301 people died of unintentional opioid poisoning in the second quarter of 2020 (April 1 – June 30)
  • On average, in the first six months of 2020, 2.5 people died every day in Alberta as a result of unintentional opioid poisoning
  •  Beginning in March 2020, due to harm reduction services being disrupted due to COVID 19, there was a significant increase in harms associated with opioid use

As of this writing, here is some current data of individuals who are in the Alberta Health Services Opioid Dependency Program (AHS OPD)

drug addiction statistics

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In British Columbia, illicit drug toxicity deaths continue to ravage the province. The British Columbia Coroners Service recently released data that has been gathered from January 1, 2011, to July 31, 2021.

Some trends and highlights present in this data are as follows:

  • July 2021 saw 184 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, which is the second largest number of suspected deaths ever recorded in a month (January 2021 being the first). June 2020 had the most deaths at 186.
  • 1,204 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths were recorded between January and July 2021, and represent the highest number ever recorded within the first seven months of a calendar year. These stats show a 28% increase over the previous year (941).
  • Coastal cities are experiencing the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths, with Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria being the highest.
  • Male illicit drug toxicity deaths have remained at a high rate during the data period, while female rates have remained stable.
  • Illicit drug toxicity rates among those 19+ remain high
  • Deaths among those 50+ have steadily increased year over year

addiction statistics

Source

In Ontario, opioid-related harms have continued to be a problem for the province. In 2020, more than 2,400 Ontarians died from opioid-related causes.

Here are some more statistics:

  • Ontario has seen a 79.2% increase in the number of opioid-related deaths between December 2020 and February 2020
  • Overall in 2020, there were 2,426 opioid-related deaths in the province, a 60% rise from the previous year
  • The proportion of men among opioid-related deaths increased from 71% pre-pandemic to 76% during the pandemic 
  • Fentanyl has been a direct contributor to the number of opioid deaths in Ontario during the pandemic, rising up to account for 87% of deaths

addiction statistics canada

Alcohol Addiction Statistics by Province

Alongside opioids, alcohol addiction contributes greatly to addiction statistics across many provinces and territories across the country. However, individual provincial alcohol addiction statistics seem to be more difficult to find when compared to drug addiction statistics. 

As mentioned in the previous section, the alcohol addiction statistics shown below are not representative of all the alcohol addiction statistics currently available, but rather provide a snapshot into this issue and how it affects Canadians.

In Alberta, overconsumption of alcohol contributes significantly to disease, death, incarceration rates, and more across the province.

Here are some statistical highlights:

In British Columbia, overconsumption of alcohol affects the province in the following ways:

  • British Columbia has the highest charge and suspension rate per 100,000 residents for driving under the influence compared to other provinces in Canada
  • Between 2017 and 2018, British Columbia had 361 alcohol-related hospitalizations every single day for 100,000 people
  • Over 20% of British Columbians over the age of 12 are currently taking part in heavy drinking
  • Alcohol Addiction is the most common substance use disorder in BC

In Ontario, alcohol addiction continues to be a problem with the population, with statistics such as the following:

  • 83% of Ontario students in grade 12 drink alcohol, with 49% of grade 12 students admitting to binge drinking
  • In Ontario, there has been an increase in emergency room visits related to alcohol consumption recorded from 2003 to 2016
  • In 2021, Ontario has the greatest increase in reported alcohol consumption when compared to the other provinces and territories in Canada

Drug Addiction Treatment Statistics

The most recent drug addiction treatment statistics in Canada show data from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. This data analyzed 150,222 individuals that accessed publicly-funded substance use treatment services across Canada (excluding New Brunswick) and provides some insights into how public addiction treatment services are accessed throughout the country.

Data from the report showcases that:

  • The majority of individuals that accessed treatment were males (63.9% male versus 35.9% female)
  • The majority of people who accessed treatment were unemployed (38%) or listed as “other” (20%) in terms of income type
  • Most people accessed non-residential treatment options, so things like regular meetings and group therapy
  • Alcohol is the primary substance for which substance abuse is prevalent across all the provinces and territories in Canada

Drug Addiction Recovery Statistics

drug addiction recovery statistics

Providing support for those with substance use disorder is paramount to combating drug addiction throughout Canada. Without easy access to facilities like safe injection sites, treatment centres, and other social support programs, addiction rates in Canada are sure to continue to grow and remain a serious societal problem.

While addiction recovery is a personal journey where it is ultimately up to the individual to overcome their addiction, that doesn’t mean that people with addiction don’t deserve help or guidance.

The Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada report published in May 2017 gives us insight into how addiction recovery is viewed by those who accessed addiction recovery services in Canada. The online survey was conducted between April 18, 2016, to June 1, 2016, and consisted of 855 participants.

Let’s take a look at some key statistics:

  • Alcohol was the most common substance that was used during active addiction, with 93.3% of survey participants reporting using alcohol (either exclusively or in addition to other substances). In addition, alcohol was the most common overall drug of choice during active addiction used by 50.5% of respondents
  • The majority of respondents said that recovery aided in them having a positive quality of life, with 90.7% rating their quality of life as either excellent, very good, or good
  • More than half of respondents (51.2%) were able to achieve stable recovery without a relapse
  • The definition of recovery among respondents included abstinence, improved health, improved social connections and functioning, and well as overall enhanced quality of life
  • Respondents used a variety of pathways to recovery, including family, professional, and mutual support services

6 Facts on Addiction Statistics in Canada 

When we’re looking at addiction statistics across Canada, it’s clear that addiction impacts Canadians of all walks of life. In order to understand the impact of addiction across the country, here are some facts on addiction statistics in Canada to consider.

1. Alcohol is the most common drug used by Canadians 

Alcohol use has also increased significantly among females since 2013, and 15% of Canadians who drink alcohol consume above Canada’s Low-risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. In 2014, alcohol contributed to 14,826 deaths in Canada, representing 22% of all substance-use-related deaths.

2. Cannabis was the most common substance associated with substance-related hospitalizations for youth aged 10-24 years in 2017-2018 

The number of individuals who report using cannabis continues to increase in recent years. While cannabis is definitely less harmful than opioids or alcohol, there are still risks and harms associated with its use.

3. Canada saw at least 15,393 opioid-related deaths between 2016-2019

Emergency room visits for opioid poisoning have also increased among young adults aged 25-44. In addition, the rate of hospitalization due to opioid poisoning saw an average of 17 hospitalizations per day in Canada in 2017.

4. Cocaine use in older youth (ages 20-24) is increasing (according to 2019 data)

Despite overall low consumption rates, cocaine costs the Canadian criminal justice system the most second only to alcohol.

5. Criminal violations involving methamphetamine saw an increase from 2013-2018

Some jurisdictions also report at least a three-fold increase in the use of methamphetamine among those accessing treatment or harm reduction services.

6. 1 in 25 youth in grades 10-12 have reported using ecstasy in the last 12 months (2017)

The overall use of ecstasy in Canadians aged 15 and over is less than 1%. 

Addiction Treatment Options

addiction treatment options

Seeking out treatment for addiction can be intimidating, especially with the public stigma surrounding addictions.

The important thing to remember is that substance use disorder is an actual disease that deserves treatment just as much as any other ailment. The road to recovery from addiction may not be completely linear, but it’s worth the effort to improve you or your loved one’s quality of life.

Treatment options for addiction can vary depending on the needs of the individual. Here is a quick summary of the different types:

Rehab Centres

Rehab centres are residential living spaces and programs that provide a place with a structured environment so the patient can focus on recovery. The patient is often expected to participate in all meals, activities, counselling sessions, and other aspects of the centre’s program.

Detox Centres

Detox centres provide a safe, medically-supervised space where people can go through the detoxification process of allowing their body to naturally eliminate harmful substances. 

Medically-Assisted Treatment Centres

Medically-assisted treatment centres provide patients with medications to help them with their addiction, with a combination of counselling and behavioural therapy.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient 

There are generally two types of rehab facilities: outpatient and inpatient. Outpatient is where a person visits the centre over a period of time, typically daily or a few times a week to seek treatment such as counselling. Inpatient treatment centres refer to residential facilities where the patient lives and adheres to a strict recovery program and is under medical supervision.

Conclusion

Addiction continues to be a prevalent problem in Canada that affects the majority of the population. Addiction statistics show that we still have a long way to go in curbing this issue. It’s clear that it will take significant social investment and effort from governments at all levels, including municipal, provincial, and federal to make headway into solving the addiction problem in Canada.

If you or a loved one is looking for addiction support, treatment, counselling, or recovery programs, there are a variety of resources available to you: 

  • Andy Bhatti has years of addiction expertise and personal experience backed by education from the Justice Institute of British Columbia with an addiction studies certificate, nonviolent crisis intervention program, as well as other programs in the field of Intervention Skills and Training through Canadian and American studies.
  • Canada Drug Rehab and addiction services directory is a free resource that makes it easy to locate drug rehab and detox programs throughout Canada.
  • Cedars at Cobble Hill is an addiction rehab facility that specializes in providing individualized care and programs for patients experiencing drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a private mental health treatment facility that provides 24-hour medical care, including psychiatry, psychology, nutrition and fitness support, specialized bodywork, and other services. The Sunshine Coast Health Centre has a record of providing high-quality care since 1991.
  • Aurora Recovery Centre offers a variety of programs geared towards the treatment and management of addiction. Their philosophy is based on the knowledge that addiction is a treatable illness, and with the right recovery management system and expert care, individuals can recover from it.

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